“Let go!” Oboe banged her hands against the fury’s leather armor. A troop of spriggan, all furies, hauled her out onto the palace veranda. “I want my dad! Let me see my dad! Stop!!”
The furies spread their wings and Oboe was pulled into the air. The Circle shrank away as they soared out of the folded space of the Circle. The sky rippled and turned blue. Oboe’s home disappeared.
She fell, crashing through the trees of the Whirlwood and landing with a sharp thud on the ground. Groaning and aching all over, she sat up. The spriggan watched her from the trees like vultures.
“Nameless,” one said. “Your life has been spared. See that we do not take it from you.”
They took flight, ascending in tight formation. They dove back into the sky as if it were a rippling pool and vanished.
She was alone. Oboe glanced around the quiet meadow and wondered what to do. Would she ever see her family again? She peered into the unknown depths of the Whirlwood and felt scared. How would she live out here by herself? Where was she supposed to go?
It hit her, really hit her, just how bad she messed up. Her life was over. She curled up on the ground, wishing to die, wishing the furies had killed her instead. She slumped against the ground to cry and lost track of time. Autumn leaves drifted as the day faded and the air grew colder.
“There you are.”
A satchel of apples spilled onto the forest floor. Oboe looked up and one was shoved into her hands.
“Here,” Thistle said. He was the old sylph from the stadium. “You’re probably starving.”
“Huh?” Oboe turned the apple in her hand. The bright red fruit reminded her how hungry she was.
He sneered. “You going to stare or are you going to eat? I didn’t carry all this for fun. Had enough trouble finding you.”
Oboe wiped her eyes and took a crisp bite. The taste was sharp and sweet and was the first good thing to happen all day.
“Saw what happened to you.” Thistle sat down beside her. “Can’t believe you were that stupid. Broke the law and made a big show of it. Thought you were dim when I met you, but didn’t think you were that big a moron.”
Oboe buried her face in her apple. “I’m sorry.”
“Keep your sorry,” He said. “Doesn’t matter how stupid you were. You’re a kid. Not like you know any better. Can’t say the same for those overgrown weeds running the Circle. They’re the real idiots. I don’t care what you did. They know better than to do this to a child. Whatever.”
Oboe felt sick again. She bit another hunk of apple and forced it down. “I messed up. I don’t know what to do.”
Thistle stared up through the trees at the rising moon. It was faint, but growing brighter in the late afternoon sky.
“Not much you can do. Can’t change what’s done. Can’t fix something like this, believe me.” He kneaded the side of his head. “I’ll tell you what can do, though.”
“Keep going,” He said. “You screwed up. Fine. Great. What counts is you’re smart enough to admit it was wrong. Do better. Don’t hurt other creatures. Be decent, and get on with your life.”
Oboe sank her teeth into the apple and then swallowed. She nodded. It made sense. She didn’t have to be wicked. She thought about the promise she made grandmother. It was a good promise. She would never use her magic on anyone else. She would be good from now on. She would keep her promise.